Payments for Cultural Impact Assessments should be refunded

Auckland property owners stripped of thousands of dollars to undertake cultural impact assessments should be refunded by the Council.

The High Court decision to dismiss the IMSB's appeal of the Council's decision to remove the remaining ‘Sites and Places of Value to Mana Whenua’ (read more here), confirmed that the Council has inflicted additional costs and uncertainty on Auckland property owners through these cultural impact assessments with little or no justification since they were first introduced in September 2013.

We've heard from many Aucklanders who have paid thousands of dollars to iwi representatives, with no safeguards in place by Council to protect them from the risk of exploitation. Now that the process has been abolished, those applicants should be entitled to full reimbursement from Auckland Council.

The decision from Justice Wylie may also cause problems for the Government, in that it highlights the potential flaws of ‘co-governance’ type arrangements in relation to resource consent approval processes. The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which is currently before Parliament, broadens the scope of ‘Iwi Participation Arrangements’ to cover consenting and monitoring. The proposed law would impose on all Councils special rights and privileges for iwi in regards to resource consents.

The Government should take note of Justice Wylie’s decision and make substantial changes to the Bill if the legal problems experienced by Auckland Council are to be avoided.

There must be strong safeguards in place to prevent councils from outsourcing consent decisions to unaccountable third party groups, with no appeal or review safeguards.